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Fluke surgery : fretboard replacement

24 2011

I have played my Fluke intensively ever since I bought it in December 2008. My Fluke has always been my all-weather ukulele as its plastic structure made it the ideal uke to take along whenever I went for a walk in my beloved hills of Burgundy.

My Fluke did however start to show some signs of wear: some of the plastic frets had become dented and playing a Dm for example sounded really bad.

Here is what my fretboard looked like before I replaced it. You can clearly see the dents:

I couldn’t keep my Fluke as it was as its altered sound really bugged me. Some chords gave a very snappy sound and I couldn’t be blamed for it (honest, I was not trying to play barre chords or an E chord).

I followed Al‘s suggestion and contacted Flea Market Music to find out if I could get a replacement fretboard. I got a very swift answer from Beth who has been extremely helpful and who sent me a new plastic fretboard in no time. In case you ever have the same problem with your Fluke or Flea, it’s worth knowing that you could go for a rosewood fretboard upgrade to avoid having similar problems in the future. I chose to keep my Fluke plastic for my outdoor wanderings.

And now comes the tricky part of the story: unmounting the plastic fretboard and putting on the new one. I am sure some purists will object to our layman’s work but I was determined to get a better knowledge of my own instrument by fixing it myself despite the risk it involved.

With the precious help of my friend Guillaume, we put some masking tape around the old fretboard so as to protect the uke and to mark the exact place where the fretboard was.

Removing the glue with a paint scraper from the top of the neck down was rather easy until we reached the part of the fretboard that was glued on the body. The glue was really strong in this area and we had to heat up the fretboard with an iron covered with a cloth for some minutes before it gave out with the help of a sharp thin knife.

We couldn’t prevent some of the hibiscus finish to come off together with the glue but as this is a hidden part of the uke it was not such a big issue.

Once the fretboard was removed and the surface of the neck cleaned from glue remains, we just mixed some epoxy glue and applied a layer to the surface of the new fretboard and a layer on the neck.

We’ve been really careful about the placement of the new fretboard, using our markings to place it exactly where the old fretboard was. Once it was in place, we placed some pieces of hard cardboard under the neck and on top of the new fretboard and clamped the whole lot for 2 hours.

As we had just received some new sets of strings from Savarez, one of the sponsors of the FIUL festival which we will be attending (17th-18th-19th of June), I decided to try them on.

To check out the new sound, I recorded one of my originals, Maelström, which involves both picking and strumming.

Many thanks to Guillaume who helped me make my Fluke playable again and to Al and Herman for their advice.

And now for the result of the surgery:

Disclaimer: Try this at home at your own risk as we cannot be held responsible for your messing up your Fluke or Fleas.

 


9 Comments »

  1. Al on the 24th of May 2011 @ 23:12

    Glad the replacement was a success, Armelle. It’s sounding great! Excellent tune too.

  2. Bossarocker on the 24th of May 2011 @ 23:12

    Sounding great, Armelle. You are very brave!

  3. Armelle Europe on the 25th of May 2011 @ 06:50

    Al: Thanks! It does feel like having a brand new uke! Glad you liked Maelström too.

    Lou: Thanks Lou!

  4. Herman Vandecauter on the 25th of May 2011 @ 10:26

    Oh you got the courage to do this without broken fingers!:) congratz!

  5. Armelle Europe on the 25th of May 2011 @ 12:12

    Herman: Well, Guillaume took care of the dangerous process of removing the fretboard with the paint scraper and the knife. So all congrats should go to him!

  6. Barry Maz on the 25th of May 2011 @ 12:58

    Very brave – but great tutorial and good to know it can be done. Mine starting to show signs of wear also.

    Baz

  7. Armelle Europe on the 30th of May 2011 @ 20:43

    Barry: sorry your comment landed in the spam.
    If your Fluke fretboard is showing signs of wear, it’s really worth replacing it. Mine sounds like a brand new uke now and I’m really happy about it.
    You can always order a new fretboard and have it replaced by a luthier to be on the safe side.

  8. Ingrid on the 17th of July 2011 @ 06:49

    Hi, I love the melody. Is there to learn this from you? Ingrid

  9. Armelle Europe on the 17th of July 2011 @ 21:17

    Ingrid: I haven’t got anything tabbed but would it help if I told you the chords?
    They are Dm-A7-Dm-A7 Dm-C-Dm-C Gm-Dm-C-C7
    Then for the strumming part:
    Dm-C – Dm-C-Gm Dm-C-C7

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